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Taking America from #12 to #1

Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, outlines some of the crucial steps the Administration has taken to meet the President's goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

As the Washington Post and New York Times report, the United States has fallen from first to 12th in terms of 25 to 34-year-olds with postsecondary degrees.  The finding comes from a report conducted by the College Board and confirms what we’ve known for too long: that United States’ graduation rate is lagging behind our global competitors.

We know that economic security and educational progress go hand in hand.  That’s one of the reasons why the President outlined a new national goal last year: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.  Already we’ve taken crucial steps to help our nation meet this goal.

We’re making sure our high schools adequately prepare students for college and careers 

  • Building on the reforms begun last year under the Recovery Act, and the efforts of states applying for Race to the Top grant funds, America’s K-12 education system will better prepare students by holding them to higher, clearer college- and career-ready standards, assessing their progress with improved tests and with data systems to measure student growth, and by better preparing and supporting teachers and school leaders. 
  • As part of these reform efforts, this year we launched a national effort to help turn around America’s persistently low-performing schools.
  • We’re committed to investing in innovative dropout recovery and prevention strategies to better engage youth in their learning and to help them catch-up academically.
  • And the President’s FY 2011 budget supports a new $100 million College Pathways Program to increase access to college-level, dual credit, and other accelerated courses in high-need high schools, and to support college-going strategies and models that will help students succeed.

We’re making college more affordable

  • We have more than doubled our investment in the Pell Grant program to help unlock and hold open the doors of higher education opportunity for more Americans. 
  • We’ve tripled the largest college tax credit to ease college costs for nearly 8 million students and families.
  • And to ensure that Americans can afford their student loan payments, we have expanded the income-based student loan repayment program so that new borrowers after 2014 will be eligible to cap their monthly payments at reasonable share of their income.  

And we’re also strengthening our community colleges 

  • We’ve also made an historic investment -- $2 billion over the next four years – in community college and career training. These resources will help community colleges and other institutions develop, improve, and provide education and training.

Working together with parents, teachers, and local communities across the country, we’re committed to bringing America back to #1 in postsecondary graduation rates.

Heather Higginbottom is the Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council